a month ago
Admissions Advice

Chancing Chances

If you have about a 15-20% acceptance chance at schools you are interested in (as the chancing engine predicts), then you are mathematically supposed to/predicted to get into at least one interested school if you are interested in 10 of them with around the same acceptance chance, with maybe a few waitlists, right?


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2 answers

Accepted Answer
a month ago

Hi @KSR,

I'd like to shed some more light on this to help you get a better understanding of how our chancing engine works and how you should be thinking about your chances.

First, chances are mutually exclusive - while rankings and acceptance rates are a good metric for determining what caliber of school you should categorize as reach, target, or safety, this does not really hold true for top 20 schools like the Ivies.

Top 20 schools are reaches for everyone, and if you're not a legacy, athlete, or extremely well-off, your odds are going to be even slimmer; it really becomes less of a statistical question and more about luck.

What our chancing engine tells you is how many times your application would be accepted if you applied to the school 100 times. The percentage we give is more of a guidance factor to help you assess your standing and our engine also has tips to help you identify weak parts of your profile and improve them.

Hope this helps!

a month ago[edited]

College admission chancing engines work like weather forecasting. The best they can do is predict the chances of getting in to one weather pattern, maybe 2. So a great weather predictor could predict Rain and Wind or Snow and Wind or Sun and Humidity. But they are all bad at predicting a perfect representation of what is going on in real time.

What I'm assuming is that you have a 15%-17% chance a the hardest Ivys like Yale, Harvard and Columbia, and a 18-20% at Cornell, Dartmouth, UPenn something like that.

One thing I'm certain of, is that each Ivy league school has different criteria for admitting students. So Harvard might use 220 data points and Cornell 140 but all the major data points are very much highly correlated. So if UWGPA,course rigor, and some score of intellectual curiosity are 3 academic inputs I'm sure that they share similar weights and significance at all 8 schools. All the other data points like whether you are an ALDC (recruited athlete, legacy, development, child of faculty), black of Hispanic, low income, first gen college student etc are certainly weighted differently because some Ivys still have less diversity, equity and inclusion than others.

If you had a 15% chance at each equally and all the independent variables were identical from one Ivy to the next, then I get a 73% chance of getting in to 1. For 20%, I get 83% chance to get into 1. But we know that the Ivys are not "apples to apples" so you are not rolling the same 6 sides dice each roll. Each of the Ivys have a different amount of sides and different amount of outcomes.

The way I like to visualize the probability of getting into any Ivy is to see in your minds eye 8 scatter-plots with the green dots admits, yellow dots waitlists, and red dots rejections. If you have a 15% admit rate at a school that means that 15% of the dots out of 50,000 dots will be green and so forth. But you will definitely see a pattern which is that most green dots cluster in the Top Right hand corner of the scatter-plot. And there are sparse green dots slight to the left and to the south. When I see those other green dots in other sectors, my gut tells me that they are either ALDCs or admits with hooks like being BIPOC, low income or first gen students or someone attending a Top20 private boarding school. If you are not someone from those backgrounds, then you really can't rely on getting in if you do not meet a certain academic index which most of the Ivys use to determine a minimum standard.

Therefore I personally do not think by applying to all 8 Ivys with a 15-20% chance one is going to get into one or get wait listed at 3. I think you'd get into 1 if all 8 were in the 25%-30% range and you applied to all 8. At some point like 40%-45%, you have a good chance of getting into 4-8 of them, because there just aren't a lot of students out there that are have amazing academic, personal character, ECs and a advocates to back them up. For example, if you are a US Presidential Scholar Finalist or Semi-finalist, you might get into 1/2-all of them, but then again that is only 625 high school seniors in the country.

Remember that college admissions is not rocket science. I think many people want to quantify college admissions and turn it into some math problem. It's not a math problem, it's a people problem. Each college is different, each applicant is different, each application reader is different and all the decision making dots that need to be connected to accept someone are all different at each school. I'm certain that at Harvard, if someone have a Collegevine percentage of 15% but they were a legacy student who attend a private boarding school and their parents pledged to donate $3 million dollars, then the probability of acceptance would be like 90-99%. But if someone was say 4th Gen CIS Chinese American who was not athletic, mostly tier 2 STEM ECs, average recommendations, perfect GPA and a 99% percentile SAT/ACT score, 10 APs, they might be 35% on the chancing profile, but in reality they are dime a dozen to Harvard so their real probability is 15%. A Hispanic or Black 1st Gen, Low income kid with no test scores or low 1350-1400 test scores, and limited ECs, might get put ahead of the line of the former applicant. Is it fair? Harvard thinks so.

The bottom line is that no matter what the CV chancing engine says, 15, 20 or 40%, you should have a Plan B, and pick some less competitive schools that will serve you well for 4 years that you see yourself being happy with and attending.

I feel lucky and privileged to be able to matriculate into Columbia U next fall. However if it didn't turn out that way, I would have applied to schools like Vassar, Hamilton, Williams, CMC, Mt.Holyoke, and Trinity College in Hartford and would have been just as excited to go there because there are literally hundreds of fantastic colleges in America with amazing teachers an great students from all over the world.


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